Whether you are just starting your quarter or are in the middle of your semester, all college students have one thing in common– they are all in the midst of career fair season. As such, I wanted to share some tips for making the most of your career fair experience.
Before the Career Fair
- Research companies and positions. Know what organizations will be attending, what they do, and what types of positions they will be hiring for. You don’t want to be the student who sticks their foot in their mouth because they have nothing to say once they get face-to-face with a recruiter at a career fair.
- Prepare your resume. A strong resume is essential. Have your resume reviewed by your college’s career services office to ensure it is error free with strong action verbs and applicable content. Remember to bring multiple copies of your resume to the fair.
- Perfect your elevator pitch. After waiting in line to speak with a company, you finally get to the recruiter…now what? This is where the elevator pitch comes into play. Craft an authentic introduction that tells the recruiter about yourself and why you are interested/a good fit for their company.
- Practice and prepare questions. Even though this is not an interview, be prepared to be asked questions by the recruiter. Conversely, make sure you have a few questions for them that demonstrate your knowledge of the company while learning more about the position.
During the Career Fair
- Dress to impress. First impressions matter. If you are attending a career fair, business professional dress is expected (unless otherwise noted).
- Develop a plan of “attack.” Career Fairs can be overwhelming, sometimes housing hundreds of employers in a convention hall. Many of these larger-scale fairs have maps of the venue. Take a few minutes before entering the fair to map out your visit to company booths.
- Meet and network with employers. Once you have established your plan of attack, start visiting employer booths. While you should always follow the recruiters lead, most recruiter-student interactions at career fairs start with a firm handshake, move to the elevator pitch and/or small discussion, transition to a brief Q&A, and then end with the student expressing interest in the company/position. Remember to ask for their business card and close with a firm handshake.
- Lost? Ask Career Services! College Career Advisors usually have some form of Q&A booth and/or table at career fairs to assist you in navigating the fair, learning more about a particular employer…pretty much anything you need assistance with. Take advantage!
After the Career Fair
- Reflect on your experience. What companies stood out? Are there organizations you are no longer interested in after meeting with them? Take the time after the career fair, while things are fresh in your mind, to jot down some notes about your experience. It will help you determine the next steps in your job and/or internship search.
- Follow-up with employers. Make sure you send a thank-you note to employers you are interested in working for. Reference something particular about your interaction at the career fair in order to differentiate yourself from the rest of the candidates.
Your first career fair can be a bit overwhelming, but with practice and preparation you will be able to develop some meaningful connections with recruiters, hopefully leading to an interview for that job or internship you have your sights on. Best of luck!
Heather currently serves as the Associate Director of Student Services for the Undergraduate Career Services Office in the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University. In her role, Heather guides students throughout their career development, lectures on career-related topics and personal branding, presents career workshops for students, supervises a team of career coaches, and develops/manages the social media efforts for her office. Before making the switch to Student Affairs, Heather worked in Marketing, Sales, and Promotion within the Music & Entertainment industry. Originally from New Jersey, Heather attended Indiana University for her undergraduate degree and The Ohio State University for her graduate studies. You can connect with Heather on Twitter and LinkedIn.